British Airways May Soon Be Leasing Planes From Qatar Airways

British Airways has had a lot of issues lately, not the least of which is major labor issues with their flight attendant union. This involves British Airways’ “mixed fleet” crews, which are the flight attendants they hired several years back when they were having issues with their other crews. Now they want more pay, and the rest is history.

Anyway, British Airways’ mixed fleet flight attendants have been threatening to strike on and off for the past several months. Some of the strikes have materialized, while others haven’t. Ultimately British Airways has done a decent job minimizing the disruptions caused by these strikes.

The union representing the flight attendants has threatened another strike between July 2 and July 16, 2017, and it looks like British Airways has an interesting solution. British Airways has filed an application with regulators, asking for permission to wet lease nine A320 and A321 aircraft registered in Qatar. Per Skift:

The UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, said Thursday that British Airways has requested to wet-lease nine Qatar-registered Airbus A320s and A321s from July 2 through July 16 — coinciding with the proposed strike. The regulator said British Airways also wanted sought to use the aircraft “for additional periods, yet to be defined, for a maximum of two months.”

The aviation authority said British Airways wanted to continue serving passengers while short-staffed. “The application has been made on the grounds that the lease is justified on the basis of exceptional needs,” the regulator said.

While British Airways doesn’t explicitly name which airline they’re leasing planes from, I think it’s safe to say that they’re from Qatar Airways, especially given the number of shorthaul planes that Qatar Airways has been forced to park due to their issues with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, etc. Furthermore, keep in mind that Qatar Airways owns a significant stake in British Airways.

Since this would be a wet lease, this would also mean that the crews would be from Qatar Airways. This would be a huge improvement, given that Qatar Airways has a legitimate business class product. Some of their A320s feature fully flat seats in business class.

At a minimum, they all feature spacious recliner seats.

This also means you’d get Qatar Airways cabin crew rather than British Airways cabin crew, which I’d consider to be an upgrade as well. However, they’ll have to teach the Qatar Airways flight attendants how to use the credit card machine and how to sell food and drinks, since it’s not something they’re used to. 😉

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What remains to be seen is how much of this is simply a threat to try and show the union how replaceable the cabin crew are, rather than an actual plan. While this is better than just canceling flights, this wouldn’t be cheap. They’ll have to pay for accommodations for the crew, position the planes from Doha, etc.

Here’s to hoping this happens — this would be the first time in a while I’d actually want to fly British Airways within Europe!

Comments

  1. Thank god we don’t have these strikes in the US like they do in Europe such a disruption. How can their be a good relationship with management when flight attendants can strike at any point to keep demanding more. Reagan vs. PATCO is a direct show of strong authoritative action against those who keep striking keeps people in line. There are thousands of people in the U.K. alone who would be willing to be paid british airways cabin crew pay and get to travel constantly, along with all the flight benefits.

  2. 1. QR owns 10% not a significant stake.

    2. Last few strikes food and drink was back to being complimentary on the chartered airlines, including the holiday airlines who normally have buy on board went to full service. So a positive

  3. So British Airways customers (some) will pray for a Qatar plane to show up at the gate, while others (my sister) will bitch and moan that its NOT British! …until she receives actual “service” and there will be no going back ;-). haha

  4. @andres thats what the union is calling it, they are making on average 21,000 pounds or about 28,000 dollars a year with full flight benefits and retirement not sure if thats considered poverty. Most of them have no college education and it is a job with low barrier to entry (almost anyone can be trained to be a flight attendant in a rather short amount of time).

  5. @Adrian QR owns 20.01%, and is the largest shareholder of IAG (BA parent). Since BA and QR recently announced a JV with anti-trust immunity etc. I would say they’re pretty closely tied now and only getting closer.

    @Jack the young cabin crew on BA are on *terrible* pay, on the threshold of what’s legally acceptable. I am friends with a member of cabin crew on a different, much older contract who says the new recruits have horror stories. They have to pay transport to the airport, they don’t have as long to recuperate after flights and enjoy their travel time and they earn next to nothing if they aren’t actually on flights, so really struggle when they fall ill or have to take time off. The cost of living in London is one of the highest in the world and I think it would be very very difficult to call these contracts generous. That said, I don’t think their cause has been well portrayed in the media, and it’s difficult for people to sympathise when the strikes are ruining holidays.

  6. @tom I can agree that their pay isn’t top notch but I wouldn’t absymal either. Maybe BA could set up subsidized housing for mixed cabin crews for those based out of London to cut down on housing costs significantly. Would cut down on costs on BA’s end versus a sizeable increase in pay for everyone and appease those calling for greatly increased pay due to COL in london? I agree they should hire new media lead as it just sounds like a unwarranted plea for more money and ruining others vacations as of now

  7. This strike is not about pay (on which an agreement has now been reached), it is about BA refusing to reinstate travel benefits for those who were on strike, to to selectively not pay bonuses to some of those more senior crew who went on strike, but still pay a bonus to others who did strike. Both give the sense of punitive retribution, not an attempt to compromise and put previous industrial action behind them on the part of BA senior management.

    BA would, unfortunately, rather spend significantly more on wet leasing planes than reinstating previous contractual benefits. I guess for them it is about being seen to save face, be the winner in the dispute, or just reflects a general attitude of the management. I’d rather they saved the money and put it towards letting me have a soft drink on a shorthaul flight for free 😉

  8. @Jack I can only assume you don’t have to travel BA very often. Some of us have little choice due to the dominant position of BA in London. Unlike you, therefore, I know what I am talking about when I defend BA’s Mixed Fleet crews. BA’s priorities are shareholders first, management next, then premium passengers on long haul. Economy (coach) passengers come a long way behind, then come their staff. BA’s industrial relations are abysmal. The way they pay and treat this group of staff is shocking.

  9. The other thing to keep in mind here is that the cost of living, or really, how far a £ goes pre-tax vs a $. I work for a London-based company where an entry level role in London starts at £30k ($38k) but here in the US starts at $50k. From what i’ve been able to gather, it has to do with higher costs of living (medical) and post-tax disposable incomes.

  10. Multiple contracts. Different job titles and different pay for the same work. Now, strike busting by leasing planes from a foreign carrier. An information technology failure that isn’t the fault of BA. BA new headquarters in Waterside to be destroyed because of the new runway at Heathrow. A runway that BA wants. The underlying cause of this mess is one person, Alex Cruz.

  11. An interesting scenario. Reminds me of back in late 2001 my mother was part of an Air Canada crew doing a wet lease for Qantas (or maybe Air NZL) based in Sydney, doing Sydney-Auckland back and forth for 2 months with Canadian crew and aircraft.

  12. Interesting reading the views of some of your readers whom I assume are US and somewhat right leaning. Dont forget these commie unionists gave us things like the weekend and universal healthcare. Meanwhile in the US Walmart pay sub poverty wages which have to be subsidised by American taxpayers. Great system guys, you pay for corporate profits

  13. Tom – The majority of unskilled jobs in the UK are on similar levels of pay. While people like to fantasise about it being an amazing and glamorous job, they’re effectively flying waitresses with some extra safety training.

    Absolutely nothing for them to be ashamed about of course, but in this country if you do menial work then you get menial pay.

  14. US commentators here clearly have no idea of how things work in the UK. Really unless you know what you are actually talking about I shouldn’t bother. It’s fine for you all to comment on BA service levels, Club World seats and real value and of course personal choice but guys when subjects drift into other more serious social issues, we don’t need to be patronised. We like our welfare state here – well what’s left of it, and that historically came about through trade unions. Lets just say we have different views on social fairness and how people should be paid.

  15. Aren’t unions just as strong in US?! Was it just a myth that all those 80 year old biddies that AA keeps employed as cabin crew are untouchable since the union’s would throw a fit….

  16. BA salary is terrible, a junior crew at Qatar (Emirates and etihad too) earn the same if not more than a MF CSM at BA. Also, the Middle Eastern 3 have free accommodation and transport to work. Well paid staff- great customer experience

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